Our information on this property has come from a variety of sources. In addition to our normal collection of census records, rate books, newspaper reports etc, we have used references to the owners and occupants of this property in indentures relating to an adjoining property dated 1739, 1753, 1792 and 1813, the last will and testament of Ralph Grove dated 1790 and an abstract of title dated 1896.
The early deeds relating to the Tygers Head which was next door (now 51 and 53 High Street) show that the earliest owner of the ‘land’ on which 55 High Street now stands was Thomas Russell and that by 1667 the land was occupied by Thomas Edmonds.
Our next source is an indenture dated 30th April 1739 relating to 57 High Street. It described this messuage on its northward side as being ‘late of John Fowler‘.
John Fowler – we don’t know much about John. There was a John Fowler who married Sarah Williams on 1st April 1716. There are several children for which the baptism records show the father as being John Fowler, but it is possible that there was more than one person with that name. Elizabeth baptised on 14th May 1716, John baptised on 21st February 1717 (who appears to have died and was buried on 11th March 1718), Richard baptised on 1st January 1722, Sarah baptised on 19th September 1724, and another John baptised on 18th February 1728 and another John on 11th May 1730.
An indenture dated 3rd March 1753 relating to the property at 53 High Street refers to this property ‘as lands late of Thomas Fowler deceased and now of James Ricketts’.
An indenture dated 29th May 1813 again relating to the property on the south side described this property as ‘a messuage or tenement formerly of John Fowler afterwards of Betty Ricketts since of the said Ralph Grove and now of Elizabeth Johnson spinster on the northward part’.
Henry Ryal – the will of Ralph Grove dated 6th November 1790 shows that he bought the property from Henry Ryal. It implies that Ralph had owned the property for some time as he refers to it having been occupied by Betty Ricketts followed by Betty Denning. We note that there was a Henry Ryall in Thornbury who baptised a son, Thomas on 6th August 1727.
Fortunately, the 1895 abstract contained a lengthy description of previous owners and occupiers of the property:
‘all that messuage or tenement wherein Betty Ricketts widow deceased for several years immediately before to and at the time of her decease dwelt and Betty Denning afterwards dwelt and which was by Ralph Grove apothecary deceased afterwards taken down and re-built and wherein William Delaroche afterwards inhabited and Samuel Collings afterwards dwelt late in the tenure of (blank) Moor, currier and wherein one Elizabeth Johnson at the time of her decease dwelt George Ponting and since in the occupation of George Ponting as tenant thereof to the said T. J. Ward and late in the occupation of James Virgo deceased and now of John E Phelps together with the garden and appurts thereto belonging situate and being in the town and borough of Thornbury in the county of Gloucester on the east side of a street then called the High Street otherwise Fore Street adjoining on the north and east parts to a messuage and garden formerly of William Clark cordwainer deceased afterwards of William Clark his son late of Harriett Temperance Holmes and of William Clark cordwainer now in the occupation of George Walker (crossed out) Clark widow and on the south part to a messuage or tenement and garden formerly of Ralph Grove afterwards of Elizabeth Grove and then or late of John Thurston and now of O. E. Thurston‘.
Betty Ricketts – we know from the will of Ralph Grove (who lived at 57 High Street) dated 1790 that Betty Ricketts had lived in this house for several years and was living there at the time of her death so she must have died before that time. We suspect that she might be the Elizabeth Ricketts who was buried on 28th April 1774 aged 74. She was the widow of James Ricketts. The 1769 Assessment of Occupiers on the Poor Relief Rate shows Elizabeth Ricketts in a property. A land tax list dated 1775 shows an occupant as Joseph Beckenton (or Beckerton) and describes his property as ‘late Rickett’s. This property is listed between the properties of William Clark and Ralph Grove so we assume it must be 55 High Street. An indenture dated 1792 relating to the adjoining property (53 High Street) mentions Joseph Beckington had been occupying the property after James Ricketts. On 9th July 1774 Joseph Beckington married Betty Dangerfield a widow.
Betty Denning – we know from the will of Ralph Grove dated 1790 that Betty Denning was living in the house at that time. We don’t know much about Betty Denning. She might be the Betty Hill, a widow, who had married John Denning, a widower in Thornbury on 19th July 1759. John was mentioned as being a tenant in a property on the site of the present houses 69 to 81 High Street. He was living there in 1763 and 1764, but had moved on, or died by 1772.
Ralph Grove – the last will and testament of Ralph Grove written on 6th November 1790 refers to the property in the following manner:
‘I give and devise unto the said Susannah Day all that messuage or tenement wherein Betty Ricketts widow deceased some time since inhabited Betty Denning widow doth now dwell with the garden appurtenances thereto belonging adjoining to the northward part of the messuage hereinbefore mentioned to be in the occupation of the said Thomas Rolph and which I lately purchased of Henry Ryal and others situate in the Town and borough of Thornbury aforesaid in the said street there called the Fore Street alias the High Street. To hold to the said Susannah Day during the term of her natural life and from and immediately after her decease I give and devise the same unto and to the use of my said nephew Kingsmill Grove and his heirs for ever‘.
Ralph also owned the adjoining property (number 57 High Street) – click here to read more
Susannah Day – we don’t know if there was a connection between Ralph Grove and Susannah Day that led him to leave the property to her during her lifetime. She may have worked for Ralph in some capacity during the time he lived next door or just wanted to allow her to continue living there until her death.
The only Susannah Day we can find in the area is the Susanna Jones who married Paul Day in Thornbury on 13th January 1767. They had a daughter, Susannah Day who was born on 18th August 1771 when the family were living in Oldbury. Paul appears to have died aged 37 and was buried on 4th January 1774 at Thornbury, although his home at the time was in Oldbury. Susanna died aged 59 and was buried at Thornbury on 27th June 1804.
There were three further tenants listed in the Abstract of Title:
- Thomas Morgan – tenant of Mrs Day in 1800 land tax record, but we are not sure which Thomas Morgan this refers to.
- Samuel Collings – we suspect that the reference to Samuel Collings who lived here refers to Samuel Collings the clockmaker. Click here to read more
- ‘Moor the currier’ – we are not sure who ‘Moor’ the currier mentioned in the abstract was.
Elizabeth Johnson – the 1813 indenture relating to the adjoining property on the south side shows that Elizabeth was now living in 55 High Street. Elizabeth was the sister of Thomas Johnson of Elberton who had married Martha Cullimore in 1804. Thomas owned a considerable amount of land in the area around Thornbury and left Elizabeth £100 in his will dated 1828. Elizabeth is shown in the 1809, 1810 and 1812 land tax records and 1809 rent roll as a tenant of the house which stood where Rosemount now stands at the top of the High Street. By the 1814 land tax she had moved into her own house at 55 High Street.
In her will dated 14th November 1831 Elizabeth referred to land she owned in Littleton on Severn and to the house in which she lived in Thornbury, which we believe to be 55 High Street (the house where she was living at the time of her death). She left these properties in trust to her niece, Martha Ward (wife of Alfred Ward of New Leaze, Olveston) and after her decease to Martha’s son, Thomas Johnson Ward. Click here to read about Elizabeth’s property in St Mary Street
Elizabeth’s death was announced in the Bath Chronicle of 17th April 1834.
Joseph Grace – the 1809 land tax record shows Joseph was the tenant of ‘Misses Johnson’. We don’t know any more about Joseph.
William Scott – the 1810 and 1812 land tax records list William as a tenant of Elizabeth Johnson. We note that there was a William Scott who was a surgeon in Thornbury in 1790. The baptism record of his daughter, Eliza Scott on 7th April 1790 shows William was married to Esther. The 1841 census shows William Scott the surgeon was living in Bristol aged 75 and he was living there with Eliza aged 50. Another record shows a William Scott being buried in Thornbury on 26th June 1850. This record shows his age was 90 and that he was living in Thornbury at that time. Read more about William and Hester (or Esther) Scott
The Wards – Martha Ward inherited the property from her aunt, Elizabeth Johnson, in 1834. The 1840 Tithe Survey shows her husband, Alfred Ward, as being the owner and he was shown as letting the house, office and garden to Richard Scarlett. We note that Richard’s name was shown as the occupants of several properties so it is unlikely that he was living here. Martha was living with her husband, Alfred, at New Leaze House in Olveston. She died on 2nd January 1847. Under the terms of Elizabeth Johnson’s will the property was left to Martha’s son, Thomas Johnson Ward after Martha’s death. At some time between 1854 and 1857 Thomas sold the house to John Reed (see below).
George Ponting – George is referred to in the abstract of title as being a tenant of Thomas Johnson Ward. The 1851 census shows George was a relieving officer aged 37 from Berkeley living in 55 High Street with his wife, Marianne aged 25 from Swanswick, Gloucestershire and their two daughters, Elizabeth aged 3 and Sophia aged 2, both born in Alveston. Click here to read more
The Reeds, the Butlers and the Gales – on 20th February 1857 John Reed of Horton bought the property from Thomas Johnson Ward.
John Reed was the unmarried land surveyor who was living in Horton in the 1851 census. He was aged 78 and born in Horton. John was therefore likely to have been the one baptised at Horton on 7 March 1773. He was the son of Thomas Reed and his wife, Sarah. John died in June qtr 1857 just a short time after buying the property. John made his last will dated 25th October 1854 and a codicil dated 29th May 1857 and appointed Thomas Butler, Obed Butler, James Gale, Daniel Williams and Philip Allway his executors. It has taken us some to unravel the family connections between the Reeds and the Butler who appear to be connected by marriage at every generation.
A codicil to his will dated 29th May 1857 John referred to the house in Thornbury which he had recently purchased from Thomas Johnson Ward. This would have been 55 High Street. He left the house initially for the use of his nephew, Thomas Butler. He also left Thomas the five houses (11 – 19 Rock Street) which he had bought from Edward Doward. Thomas was baptised on 2nd August 1807, the son of Thomas Butler and Mary, (nee Reed) whom we assume to have been John Reed’s sister. Mary was baptised at Horton on 23rd December 1766, the daughter of Thomas Reed and his wife, Sarah.
The 1859 Rate Book shows Thomas as living in the house as well as owning it. In the 1861 census Thomas appears to be sharing the house he owned at 55 High Street. Thomas was listed as an unmarried proprietor of houses and photographer aged 53 and born in Horton. He was sharing the house with William Hurd, a tailor and draper aged 48 from North Nibley and his wife, Hester aged 47 and a niece, Louise Rodrick aged 11? from Charlton Kings. Thomas Butler died on 6th October 1866.
After Thomas’s death, under the terms of John Reed’s last will, he left the house to George Reed Butler and his heirs for ever. George was born in 1847, the son of Obed Butler and his wife, Martha. Obed was the son of John Reed’s sister, Ann Reed and her husband James Butler who had married in St James, Bristol on 24th August 1808. Ann Reed was baptised in Horton on 29th November 1778, the daughter of Thomas and Sarah Reed. George Reed Butler was the son of Obed Butler and his wife, Martha. Obed and Martha Reed had married on 18th October 1845 at St Marys Church in Bristol. Martha was the daughter of Daniel Reed of Thornbury.
We don’t know much about George. In 1861 he was at Long Ashton School. He moved away from the area – the 1871 census shows him as a commercial traveler living in Harborne in Stafforshire. George is shown as owning the High Street property in the rate books from 1876 to 1890. At some stage the property became owned by James Gale of Tormarton. James (the son of a John Gale) had married Mary Butler on 20th April 1844 at St Marys Church. Bristol. Mary was baptised in Horton on 25th October 1809, the daughter of James Butler and Anne (nee Reed) and thus Mary was the sister of Obed Butler (see above) and she and George were cousins.
By his will dated 17th April 1883 James Gale of Tormarton, gentleman left all his real estate to his son James Butler Gale. James Gale died on 14th September 1891. The census records show James Butler Gale as a draper’s warehouse living at Wellington Place in Bristol in 1871 and as a licensed victualler at the Lebeck Inn, Stapleton Road, Bristol in the 1881 census. James and his wife, Frances Isabel from Birmingham, had four children. James died at the Lebeck on 18th December 1897.
James Virgo – the 1871 census shows James was an auctioneer aged 67 from Thornbury. He was living there with his married daughter, Frances Hughes, an excise officer’s wife aged 42 and her son, Robert Virgo Hughes aged 1 who was born in Cheltenham. The 1881 census shows the three of them still living there. James Virgo died aged 81 and was buried on 13th January 1885. Frances was shown as being the occupant of the house in the 1885 Rate Book. She died aged 58 and was buried on 18th July 1888. Click here to read more
John Evomy Phelps – John is listed as the tenant of the property in the 1890 and 1894 Rate Books and he was mentioned as being the current occupant in 1896 when an abstract of title was prepared. George Butler was still being listed as the owner of the property. Click here to read more
James Merrett Michael – the 1899 Rate Book shows that James had become the owner and occupant of the house. James had been a wine and spirit merchant and run the pub, then called ‘Michaels’ (after he sold it the name was changed to ‘The Exchange’). James sold the business in 1892 and moved to live for a few years at 50 High Street before moving to 55 High Street. They continued to live there until there deaths. James died aged 73 on 3rd July 1920. Edith died aged 92 on 30th January 1933. Click here to read more
George Bernard Symes – we have been told by our good friend the late Jack Pridham, a reliable source, that he remembered GB Symes living here when he retired from the shop, or possibly even when he was still running the shop. The Western Daily Press of 11th March 1933 appears to support Jack’s recollection in an account of the sale at The Swan of various properties, including “a freehold dwelling house and garden in High Street, Thornbury, lately in the occupation of the late Mrs Edith Michael. It was said to have been “purchased for £510 by Mr G.B. Symes.
George Bernard Symes died in 1935. Click here to read more
The Yarnolds – we understand that William and Ella Yarnold moved to live in 55 High Street in the 1930s. They are shown as living in Westbourne House in the High Street in the 1938 electoral register. Ella Jane Yarnold died on February 12th 1945 aged 83. The Electoral Roll the following year suggests that William continued to live at Westbourne. He died on January 6th 1947 aged 87. Click here to read more
Dorothy Parsons – we understand that ‘Dolly’ moved to live in the house with her niece, Gillian Thiery who had been living with her at the White Lion. We are not sure when they moved here. We suspect that it might have been in 1950 when the property was put up for sale at auction. It was referred to as a freehold dwelling house known as ‘Westbourne’ and described as ‘stone-built, the front being covered with spar and the rear roughcast over. The accommodation comprised front sitting room, dining room, kitchen fitted Rayburn stove and bath on the ground floor; two bedrooms and w.c. on the first floor and two attic bedrooms and landing on the second floor; also an underground cellar. All main services. Small garden at rear with apple and plum trees therein.’
Dorothy was the daughter of Charles Parsons, the butcher who traded at 8 High Street and the brother of Herbert Parsons, the licensee of the White Lion. Dorothy was born on 21st June 1890 and had remained a spinster. Gillian was born in 1932, the daughter of Dorothy’s sister, Florence and her husband, Lewis John Thiery who had married in Thornbury in 1928. Click here to read about the Parsons
On 4th April 1953 Gillian Thiery married John Brian Pridham, who became known as ‘Jack’. He was a biochemist and the son of Albert James Pridham of The Georgian House, Gloucester Road. The marriage record confirms that the house was still known as ‘Westbourne House’ at that time. Gillian moved away, but Dorothy carried on living at the house. The 1958 and 1961 electoral registers show Dorothy’s brother, Herbert Henry, was living with her. He died on 7th January 1963 aged 67. Dorothy died in 1981 aged 92.
In more recent times, the property has been used by small businesses including Sovereign Finance.